Spanish prosecutors weigh hate crime investigation over dorm sex threat video

MADRID, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Spanish prosecutors said on Friday they were weighing a criminal hate crime investigation against male students caught on video yelling misogynist threats from their dormitory at a neighbouring all-girls college residence.

The video, widely condemned after it went viral on Thursday but later downplayed by some of the female residents in an open letter, demonstrated "inexplicable, unjustified and absolutely repugnant behaviour" that could not be tolerated, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told reporters on Friday.

In the footage obtained by Reuters, a man is seen shouting from a window of Madrid's Elias Ahuja residence at the nearby Santa Monica female-only dorm: "Whores, come out of your holes like rabbits, you are fucking nymphomaniacs."

He also threatened to make the women submit at a "capea" - a party organised around bullfighting and usually involving lots of alcohol - as scores of his fellow residents turned on lights and banged on shutters, making intimidating animal-like grunts.

A spokesperson for the Madrid regional prosecutor's office said the anti-discrimination NGO, Movement Against Intolerance, had lodged a complaint against the students for an alleged hate crime, based on the video.

An official investigation is yet to be launched, the spokesperson added. Prosecutors will examine the complaint and decide whether to refer it to a court.

Rosa de la Fuente, Vice Chancellor at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), to which both dorms are affiliated, said it had also opened an investigation into the incident as a prelude to possible disciplinary measures.

The management of Elias Ahujo said several perpetrators had been identified and expelled from the dormitory, while others would take part in mandatory awareness-raising and volunteering activities.

"EASY TO MISINTERPRET"

In their open letter posted online, some Santa Monica residents supported their male neighbours and accepted their apologies.

"A viral video is easy to misinterpret without understanding its context," the letter said. "An impression of hatred and machismo has been created, which could not be further from the truth."

Despite the language in the video being "inadequate and disrespectful", it represented a "traditional practice" at student residences with no intention of spreading misogynist speech or denigrating women, it added.

Students of both genders interviewed on camera broadly shared that view, though one Elias Ahuja resident, Juan Melo, was more contrite.

"Like the rest of my colleagues, the ones that took part and those like me that didn't, we are ashamed and sad because those insults are intolerable, above all because of the image of the residency that they present... which doesn't reflect reality," he said.

Spain recently enacted harsher penalties for abusive language or behaviour, qualifying all non-consensual sex as rape.

That came after the 2018 "Wolf Pack" case, in which five men were jailed for the lesser crime of sexual abuse after gang-raping a woman at a bull-running festival, and which gave momentum to women's rights demands.

Many political leaders across the spectrum joined Sanchez in condemning the Elias Ahuja incident.

Meanwhile Madrid's regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso - a maverick populist and prominent member of the conservative Popular Party - told reporters she was surprised prosecutors would investigate this instead of unspecified "other things" taking place daily at universities.

Reporting by David Latona; Editing by Aislinn Laing and John Stonestreet

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